Custodians struggle with growing work load

Budget crunch makes much-needed hiring impossible

Rob+Sears%2C+trash+can+in+hand%2C+begins+his+night+shift.+He+is+responsible+for+the+cleaning+and+maintenance+of+the+entire+high+school.+%E2%80%9CWe+do+anything+and+everything.+That+is+why+we+are+custodians+and+not+janitors.+Janitors+just+clean.+Custodians+do+everything%2C%E2%80%9D+Sears+said.
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Custodians struggle with growing work load

Rob Sears, trash can in hand, begins his night shift. He is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the entire high school. “We do anything and everything. That is why we are custodians and not janitors. Janitors just clean. Custodians do everything,” Sears said.

Rob Sears, trash can in hand, begins his night shift. He is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the entire high school. “We do anything and everything. That is why we are custodians and not janitors. Janitors just clean. Custodians do everything,” Sears said.

Tori Widrig

Rob Sears, trash can in hand, begins his night shift. He is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the entire high school. “We do anything and everything. That is why we are custodians and not janitors. Janitors just clean. Custodians do everything,” Sears said.

Tori Widrig

Tori Widrig

Rob Sears, trash can in hand, begins his night shift. He is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the entire high school. “We do anything and everything. That is why we are custodians and not janitors. Janitors just clean. Custodians do everything,” Sears said.

Emma Nolan, Editor-in-Chief

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“One time I had a pipe connection that had come off. It was one of those main lines. That was right after I had my surgery and I was like ‘I’m holding this pipe. I’m up on a ladder. I need help like right now because it is about to break’ and it was leaking out one end. [Craig] came running up here and by that point I had climbed up on that ladder and had that pipe up on my neck. Somehow got the brackets reheld again. and I was like ‘I think I’ve got it Craig’,” Adam Wright, custodian, said.

Wright works the day shift with Craig Johnson. They are in charge of the entire campus: complexes, gymnasiums and green houses included. The two man staff is responsible for putting out ‘fires’. Some days this means changing a lightbulb, other days consist of tackling an electrical or plumbing job. “Sometimes we just get fixed just to get by until we get the right part. But we try to our best to work and be functional and safe,” Craig said.

As the campus has grown so has the work load. Due to budget restrictions the school hasn’t hired anyone new since the middle school was moved from Grand Ronde. The extra square footage means less time per classroom. “You come into a whole list of things that have been broken the night before. . .By the time you get through the work list it is time to go home,” Wright said.

In addition to cleaning, the night staff, made up of four custodians are also responsible for setting up and cleaning most after school activities. “There are things that we would like to do in the classes, painting and other things. But, there is just no way we have time,” Rob Sears, high school custodian, said.

Instead of being paid overtime, custodians receive compensatory time. Hours worked over their normal hours are put towards paid leave that they can use during another shift. “It doesn’t work the best because there is always something we have to be here for. So we don’t usually get to use it too often. I’ve got some 20 hours of comps that I’ve had for more than a year,” Wright said.

However Wright and Johnson’s, genuine pride of the school is evident as they talk about detailing the campus: polishing brass door knobs, cleaning windows and scrubbing tile grout. “We could always want it better but for what we have right now and the amount of staff we have we are doing especially well. We have a real good crew,” Wright said.

The custodian staff look forward to Thanksgiving break when they can devote more time to detailing. However, on a large campus the little stuff is also time consuming. Door knob polish lasts 3 to 4 weeks but takes at least 16 hours for the entire school. Washing windows that are often smudged with hand and face prints the next day is another 8 hour shift.

The job is made even harder when you factor in deliberate destruction. Students hanging from the five & six complex have snapped door jams. “We have to tear that out and buy a whole new one. That is about 500 bucks. Then we have kids that just like to vandalize the bathrooms. Like to vandalize the hallways. Have some kids who like to kick holes in stuff,” Wright said.

With a budget that is not likely to change in the upcoming years, perhaps it is our responsibility as decent human beings to take pride in our campus and pick up after ourselves.